About

Basic information

The aim of this project is to spread the message that coal and unconventional fossil fuels, such as the oil sands, pose an unacceptable risk to humanity. This is because of the degree to which burning them increases the risk of catastrophic or runaway climate change.

All topics relating to coal and unconventional fossil fuels are within the scope of this project. For instance, that includes air pollution, mountaintop removal mining, water contamination, carbon capture and storage, social movements, legal issues, and more.

Project concept

A passage from a recent book illustrates the thinking that initially motivated this site:

Today we are faced with the need to achieve rapid reductions in global fossil fuel emissions and to nearly phase out fossil fuel emissions by the middle of the century. Most governments are saying that they recognize these imperatives. And they say that they will meet these objectives with a Kyoto-like approach. Ladies and gentleman, your governments are lying through their teeth. You may wish to use softer language, but the truth is that they know that their planned approach will not come anywhere near achieving the intended global objectives. Moreover, they are now taking actions that, if we do not stop them, will lock in guaranteed failure to achieve the targets that they have nominally accepted…

[I]f coal emissions are phased out entirely and unconventional fossil fuels are prohibited, fossil fuel emissions in 2050 will be somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of emissions in 2008. In other words, the reserves of conventional oil and gas are already enough to take emissions up to the maximum levels that governments have agreed on. The IPCC estimate, in which we exploit only the most readily available oil and gas, allows the possibility of getting emissions levels back to 350 ppm this century.

-Hansen, James. Storms of My Grandchildren. p. 184-5 hardcover

This site exists to try to advance that message: that the future of the climate in which humanity must live depends on how much of the Earth’s remaining fossil fuels we burn.

Deniers and delayers

This site does not exist to rebut general claims that the planet isn’t warming, that humans aren’t responsible, that the warming is not potentially dangerous, or that we should do nothing about the problem. If you want to argue about the core science, one place you can do so is here: Arguments with climate change deniers.

If you are on the fence about how serious a problem climate change is, and what we should do about it, this page may be helpful: A page for waverers.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete July 20, 2010 at 6:31 am

God bless James Hansen – the most revered idiot on the planet!

Adam June 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Pete, with Hansen’s level of study in planetary sciences and climate forcings from paleoclimate to the present century’s human-induced forcing (10000 stronger than any natural CO2 forcing in our planet’s history from the geological account!), I would say that anyone questioning his authority on the subject of climate science is an idiot, or a ‘climate contrarian’, or climate change denialist.

MRW July 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Hansen no more has the answer to climate sensitivity than any other scientist at this time. Hansen believes climate sensitivity is high, therefore his models work to prove that point. But other NASA scientists working with observable satellite data since 2002 (AMSU on the orbital Aqua satellite) are seeing results that climate sensitivity is low. They need until 2018 to determine it.

Climate sensitivity is the Holy Grail of Climate Science and no one has the answer to it yet. If its high, then it’s catastrophic and every scientist agrees it will be. If it’s low, it means climate is not sensitive to human emissions.

But the key to understand is that no one knows the answer, and whoever gets the answer gets the Nobel.

. July 12, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Almost 30 years ago, Jule Charney made the first modern estimate of the range of climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2. He took the average from two climate models (2ºC from Suki Manabe at GFDL, 4ºC from Jim Hansen at GISS) to get a mean of 3ºC, added half a degree on either side for the error and produced the canonical 1.5-4.5ºC range which survived unscathed even up to the IPCC TAR (2001) report. Admittedly, this was not the most sophisticated calculation ever, but individual analyses based on various approaches have not generally been able to improve substantially on this rough estimate, and indeed, have often suggested that quite high numbers (>6ºC) were difficult to completely rule out. However, a new paper in GRL this week by Annan and Hargreaves combines a number of these independent estimates to come up with the strong statement that the most likely value is about 2.9ºC with a 95% probability that the value is less than 4.5ºC.

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